Facebook was on fire yesterday with sympathy and support for the families who have been affected by this horrible tragedy in Connecticut. And unfortunately, influenced by the news channels, a lot of the comments I saw were about guns and gun control and the right to bear arms.
Here are two of the typical ideas I saw, paraphrased:
"If we had better gun laws, this wouldn't keep happening!"
"If all teachers were armed, this wouldn't keep happening!"
People keep saying this tragedy brings the gun issue into focus and that in it's aftermath, it is NOW the time to DO something. That's silly, of course. This isn't an easy problem to solve. Guns have been part of the American culture since their invention. We used them to kill off the Native Americans we found here. We used them to fight off our enemies and even each other when we disagreed. At various points in our history, we needed our guns to survive and to keep our families safe. Many still believe that they do. Historically speaking, in our country, it's hard to argue with them.
The problem is that right now, those who oppose guns are feeling self-righteous. The problem is that right now those who advocate their right to own guns feel cornered and vilified.
And the big problem is that politicians are involved which means instead of dealing on this issue from common ground, we deal with it from polarized strongholds.
The thing is: I honestly don't think that the majority of gun-owners would have a problem with legislation that made sense as long it also re-certified their rights, both currently and moving forward. I don't think that gun-owners want those with mental disabilities owning guns. I don't think gun advocates, outside of a the extremists, feel that there's a need for semi-automatic or automatic weapons being legal.
We have to start with this understanding. Guns aren't going to disappear. It's great that so many countries don't have guns and that they have such a small amount of violence. Our own country is still too new and guns are too much of a part of our identity for that to happen here.
What we need to do is very simple. Anti-gun people need to step back from the ridiculous idea that getting all guns off the streets is possible. They need to concede and recognize the right of our citizens to have guns. Then gun-owners, who don't feel threatened anymore and don't feel like giving and inch will take a mile from them, can concede to some reform that makes sense and makes things better.
There are very few issues that are cut and dried. The idea that the only win is a total win is one that infects our country and our political system like cancer. There is common ground among the people. It's the politicians and activists who are so divided. They are the ones who want a complete win and want to destroy the opposition. For the sake of our country though, we need to take this issue away from them. We can't vilify people for wanting to own guns and wanting to retain their rights to do so. Just because we don't agree with them doesn't make them wrong. More importantly, it doesn't make us right.
There is common ground out there. Fear keeps the two sides from finding it though. Fear of each other and fear of the consequences of compromising even a little bit.
This morning, ever parent in the country has reason, once again, to consider where they stand on the issue of guns and gun control. People who normally never even think about the issue, are suddenly in the middle of it. And that is where I advise them to stay. In the middle. This isn't an issue of right and wrong. It's not an issue that needs to be resolved by going left or right. It's an issue that needs to be resolved by those in the middle. It's one where common ground exists but is simply ignored.
No one. NO ONE wants to see images of 5 year old kids running out of a school that's just been shot up by some lunatic. And we can't just eliminate the possibility of it ever happening. We can't. We're far too ingrained in our personal beliefs on the issue. But we can come together with the intention of uniting on the middle ground that does exist and making real, actual and immediate change that would make things better now. We can make it harder for things like this to happen even if we can't stop them altogether.
You can call this idea wishy-washy if you want. You can say that the fight has to go on until one side or the other wins and if you think the possibility exists that one side can convince the other that they are right quickly enough to help save the next bunch of kids at the next school, which could easily be the one your own children attend, then I suppose you just carry on and continue the stalemate. If, however, you understand that there will always be danger to kids--in one form or another--you may want to consider the fact that making your kids as safe as you can make them is the best you can do. And to allow anything less is a failure.
The gun issue is currently populated by those on one side of the issue or the other. It needs to be populated by us all. We need to find common ground and common sense. We don't live in a world that offers absolute safety to anyone. We could live in a safer world though. That goal is out there. It's attainable. If we can get the polarized nuts from each side out of it, if we can get the politicians who are swayed by their lobbyists and special interest money instead of their constituents out of it. If all the parents who cared about their kids and wanted to make them safer came together with the goal of not even trying to decide the gun issue, but instead using common sense to bring about real change, possible change that makes kids more safe, then we could actually make them safer--not safe, never safe, not in this world--but safer.
Safer. More safe. Wouldn't that be better? Or, should we all meet back here in a few months to cry over dead children again?